Tezza Barton does a lot of things at an elite level. She’s a photographer, a model, a musical artist and a wildly successful entrepreneur.
She got her start playing in a band with her sister. Her sister was the star and the dreamer. Barton just loved being around her.
But after her sister passed away, at 17, Barton’s life changed forever.
Barton said, “She was a dreamer and a doer. And after she died, I was like, ‘Wait. She’s not going to be able to do that.’ She had all of these dreams. And it just taught me that life is so short and you only have this one life to do and create the life that you want to create.”
And that’s exactly what Barton set out to do.
She attended the Parsons School Of Design in New York where she fell in love with photography. But her version of success differed from her classmates.
To them, financial success meant that you were selling out and weren’t a true artist.
So, they obviously didn’t get Instagram when it came out.
But Barton had a vision and saw Instagram as the perfect outlet for a photographer, like herself.
She spent time figuring out her style, what worked and what didn’t and most importantly she developed a community. One that’s continued to grow every year since then.
Barton said, “A lot of brands launch and then they’re like, ‘We’re going to find our people.’ But if you can find your people in the beginning, and make them a part of the process, then they’re going to be with you for the test of time.”
As her career took off, she wanted to monetize, so she took a proactive approach with brands.
She said, “I would literally make my portfolio to be exactly what that the brand wanted. And at the time, brands didn’t know how to create that much content. They were like, ‘How are we supposed to keep up with the amount of content that we need to create?’ And I was like, ‘I got you.’”
What made her different, from other creators, was that instead of guarding her photography secrets, she openly shared them with her followers.
Barton said, “I’m a photographer. I’ve worked all these years to create my ‘special sauce’ and have my look. And the second I said, ‘Here you go. Edit just like me.’ People responded. As artists we get protective, as you should, but at the same time the more you share, the more you’re going to grow as an artist and as a person. When we started the brand, that’s always been the core value of the brand and why we exist today.”
Even though she openly shared her secrets, most of her followers didn’t want to learn how to use complicated editing software. They just wanted to edit pictures on their phones and have them look amazing on Instagram.
That’s where the idea for the Tezza app came from.
Luckily her boyfriend, now husband, Cole Herrmann was a programmer and could work on it after work and on the weekends.
They worked on the app for over a year before it launched.
Because of the hard work behind the scenes, the app exploded the first day it was released.
It now has over 34,000 5-star ratings in the app store.
What makes Tezza stand out, from the million other editing apps out there, is that there’s a community behind the brand.
It’s not just a faceless app on your phone.
They have in person meet ups, they support causes they’re passionate about and they even have merch, which accounts for a good percentage of their revenue.
Take a second and look at the apps on your phone. I’ll look at mine too.
I’ve got dozens of entertainment apps, fitness apps, productivity apps, shopping apps, music apps, etc. on my phone.
But I wouldn’t buy merch from any of them. And I’ll bet that you wouldn’t either.
That’s what makes the Tezza app so special. They have a community that wants to buy their merch, who wants to attend in person events, etc.
There’s a valuable lesson in this story for all the marketers and entrepreneurs out there: Build community before you build the product.
It’s more effective, and a lot easier, than launching a product first and then figuring out how to build a community later.